#67–Kayaking around Florence . . .

It’s a glorious site to watch the full moon rise up over the hills and brighten as the evening fades into night . . . especially from the vantage point of a kayak on a lake.

When I wrote about visiting Florence a few weeks ago (#64), I only briefly mentioned that kayaking is popular among locals both on the rivers and numerous lakes in the area around Florence. Well, I’d like to expand on that because now I’ve had a bit of experience.

My first attempts where I tried too hard and got nowhere fast. Notice arm of jacket already getting wet. Jeannie Owen photo

I went out in a kayak for the first time in my life last Friday evening at Westlake harbor on Siltcoos Lake. That night was selected because of a full moon. Siltcoos is a big lake and the moon cast a huge sheen on the water.

My kayaking experience began with a lesson from Mary Nulty on how to hold the paddle—a double paddle. There is a correct way to hold it, and I was given all the basics before I hit the water. But I still had to learn the hard way by doing everything wrong and then seeing how doing it the right way really did work. The three kayakers I was with, Jeanne Owen and Mary and her husband, Frank, were patient through my bumbling efforts and then helpful when I was ready.

Because I began by holding the paddle wrong, working real hard just got me wet and didn’t increase my speed all that much. When I realized I had drifted too far out and had to turn around, I took nearly the whole harbor. Again and again, I drifted out to where it was deeper and windy. A little wind can really play havoc with a kayak—especially in the hands of a novice.

Once I figured out how to make a relatively tight turn, after Jeanne showed me again and again, I went around and around enjoying it. It was sort of a Looney Tunes cartoon moment. Then I started noticing the posts and buoys (which, of course, is why they’re there) and didn’t let myself get beyond a certain buoy.

Jeanne lead the way, and I tried to keep up. Mary Nulty photo

Whenever I’d get a rhythm going and start to feel like a real kayaker, the breeze would pick up, or another kayaker would appear, or a post or buoy would be dead ahead and I would have to veer around and break my rhythm.

I learned a lot, including that novices need to bring a complete change of clothes because of getting water in the kayak during the learning process. Most paddles have water stops on each side to prevent water from sliding down the paddle and dripping on the kayaker. But I was so energetic with my paddling initially that they made no difference. Frank paddled by and suggested that I keep my hands farther out on the paddles—like outside the kayak—to help keep water out. And most paddling, he told me, requires gentle strokes, which he expertly demonstrated.

My biggest problem occurred when I was trying to paddle deep to go faster and keep up with the others. I would get my jacket sleeve in the water and scoop water up. It was Gore-Tex and wouldn’t let the water back out and forced it up my arm, getting my long-sleeved shirt wet. From then on, dripping sleeves let water inside the kayak and soon my padded seat was wet. Although I had gloves on, I got water inside those too.

i plowed through much thicker areas of bulrushes and lily pads and enjoyed it. Mary Nulty photo

None of this bothered me while I was on the water, though. I should’ve been cold because it was breezy and the temps were probably around 58 to 60 degrees when we got there at 6 p.m. and dropped over the next two and a half hours. But I was so intent on “kayaking” that I didn’t feel cold or wet. Paddling burns energy, which helps keep you warm.

When the moon started rising, I was on the outer edge of the territory I had marked out for me. By paddling slowly backwards, I could hold my position and keep watching the moon. While doing this, the other paddlers who had arrived much later than us, moved around me, heading out to deeper waters. So I joined them.

It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that I couldn’t keep up, that I was tired. So I turned around and headed back. It was getting dark, and I was ready to call it a day.

Tired but pleased that I’d hung in and accomplished something. Had no clue how wet I’d gotten. Jeannie Owen photo

I was able to get myself out of the kayak with help from those who pulled it up the ramp a bit. My legs felt rubbery, and that’s when I realized how wet I was—wet in places I didn’t expect to be. My seat was wet as was my back, and I could ring out my socks. Wading through the water when I got in and out explained my socks.

I’ve long wanted to kayak and now I’d had the opportunity. I was pleased with myself that I’d hung in and finally got the hang of it—sort of. And, yes, I’ll try again. Watching the full moon come up and shine on the water as it darkened made it really special.

So when visiting Florence, kayaking is definitely an option. Some of the favorite places for experienced kayakers are 1) Benders Landing up the North Fork of the Siuslaw into the port docks boat ramp in town and 2) the Siltcoos Lake canoe trail to the ocean. On both of these, it’s best to go with the tide and have vehicles at both ends. Tide tables are available in many places in town. Novices should go with experienced kayakers and, like my first time,  stay around the edges of larger lakes. Or check out some of the smaller lakes—many have boat ramps. Check with the Florence Chamber of Commerce visitor center for maps of the area, tide tables, and places to rent kayaks. . . . And remember to bring along a change of clothes and another pair of shoes and socks.



Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $4.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at http://www.connectflorence.com or pacpub@oregonfast.net. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society; in Made in Oregon stores throughout the state; and more and more bookstores, libraries, and museums in western Oregon.

Current happenings:

The half-hour interview with Dr. Veronica Esagui for the “Author’s Forum” program on public access TV in the Portland Metro area ended it’s two-week run June 1-14, 2012, but can be seen on YouTube in two parts: Google Judy Fleagle YouTube.

Upcoming events:

September 17, 7 p.m., Bandon––I’ll be giving my PowerPoint presentation at the Bandon Public Library  (1204 11th Street, 541-347-3221)

September 29, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Florence––2nd Annual Florence Festival of Books–an authors and publishers fair held at the Florence Events Center (715 Quince Street, 1 block east of Highway 101). I’ll be there.

October 13, 11 a.m. Oregon City––The historic Arch Bridge designed by McCullough reopens in Oregon City on the weekend of October 13­14. I have been asked to be part of the festivities and will be giving my PowerPoint presentation at the Museum of the Oregon Territory on Saturday. The actual bridge reopening celebration will be on Sunday, and I’ll be there.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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